There’s a new Vice episode about autism, and they pack a lot of good information into 40 minutes. The first featured kid, Griffin, is a lot more like Dar than most media representations of autism. Like Dar, Griffin is seven, male, non-verbal, uses a tablet for a talker, and it’s a minor miracle when he can express his needs. So for those of you who are reading this and want a video sense of what Dar is like (something I don’t provide here), go ahead and watch the latest Vice from HBO.
For the first time ever, we are airbnb-ing our in-law studio. It’s a transitional time before our next tenant moves in on September 1st. The entrance is through a gate in the backyard, and the backyard is one of Dar’s favorite places to walk around and “tee-tee-tee.” I’ve been trying to keep him from doing it quite so much with the airbnb-ers around, because 1) noise, 2) danger. We ask them to keep the gate locked but there’s a slight chance they’ll forget and Dar will escape. The problem is that if Dar feels frustrated about remaining inside, he may scream incessantly, leaving the airbnb-ers to wonder if we’ve caged a farm animal and have decided to flay its flesh, follicle by follicle. I guess it’s not that different from having a baby or keeping kids busy on a rainy day, but it feels like more of an ordeal.
Shopping for a new dog presents similar issues. Over the weekend, we were THIS close to adopting a dog named Jox from the Milo Foundation. The whole family was out in Richmond (not as easy as it sounds) and we took a long walk and had a great bonding experience with this total-sweetheart animal. I mean, Jox was practically in our car when this one Milo employee, who reminded me of Adam Driver, warned me off. He explained that Jox is great at Milo, but when people have fostered him (and brought him back) they reported on his unpredictability. He’s never drawn blood, but he gets very growly over things he thinks are his (food, toys). Unfortunately, that’s a red-flag for Dar. Of course we can teach our five-year-old never to touch dog stuff, but of course we cannot teach our seven-year-old anything close to that. You never know when Dar will grab something and finger it for a while. So…bye-bye, otherwise ideal dog.
We tend not to put icons on the iPad that we don’t want Dar to ask for. This sometimes creates a problem, because Dar wants to ask for certain things, and we’re not even letting him ask for them. Every day lately, he wants to go to the Rose Garden/Codornices. They’re only a block away, but it’s not always practical for us to go. He stands at the front door, stamping his foot with frustration as I keep saying “not available.” Sometimes I think we don’t need to adopt a dog, because Dar is already acting the part.
He’s becoming more willful, but also more obsessed by routines. Most days lately, he wants a car ride, a trip to the Rose Garden/Codornices, backyard time, a bath, and my presence at night as he falls asleep. The latter two are more high-maintenance than they may sound. I’m not worried about him drowning in the bath, and I like that he cleans his disgustingly dirty self, but I don’t like him often pushing the bathwater out of the bath. I can keep putting towels on the floor, but that’s not great. I can drain the water, but I feel bad for him.
I know I blogged about this before, but the problem of him wanting me next to him at night is getting worse. He sits on the couch in the living room (he won’t be anywhere else) and literally screams the minute I walk away. It has to be me, not his mother. That means he screams if I go to the kitchen for a late snack, but it also means I can’t read his brother to sleep anymore. Dar is taking away one of the great pleasures of my life. Could I put his brother in the living room for reading? Maybe, but that doesn’t feel like the right place for him to fall asleep. So now I have wifey read the brother to sleep. But I miss that time. I miss watching his brother discovering worlds in books. (I know what you’re thinking, but Dar will not sit still for a book for more than a few seconds.)
If you have two kids, remember to treasure each and every moment that they play with each other and keep themselves busy. We have two kids and we have had maybe three moments like that, ever. Our kids don’t relate to each other in any way, and don’t want to. So, when wifey is away, I basically have the issues of any single parent, only doubled. In other words, I have to play all the games with each kid. I have to run. I have to hide. I have to get the creative supplies.
In some ways, this post reflects our dogless dog days of summer. We normally qualify for coverage, that is, 90 hours of state-paid baby-sitting. But we’ve used all our hours for the season, so now I’m watching Dar, waiting for school to start, applying for jobs, and trying to finish book revisions.
The latter two aren’t anywhere near easy, less so when Dar approaches me every few minutes with a request he can barely articulate.
But every so often, he’ll let me work while he watches cartoons. And every so often during that every so often, he’ll smile at me and clap. That’s his sign that he wants me to clap in response. I do. And we may share a few claps. That kind of joyful communication is something I am always happy to make time for.